Talking Horses: Great Britain v Ireland at Cheltenham could be a one-sided battle | horse racing

youhe 2023 Cheltenham Festival opens two weeks on Tuesday, all the major tests have been carried out and ante-post markets suggest that the British show jumping stables face another almighty defeat at the hands of their Irish counterparts in the west of the country. next month.

Ireland left Cheltenham with “only” 18 of last year’s 28 winners, five short of their record of 23 in 2021. However, any lingering hope in the home team that Irish dominance might be waning now seems woefully premature. . Just six of the 28 races at next month’s meeting have a British favourite, while Willie Mullins only has the favorite or joint-favourite in 13. The perennial All-Ireland champion is trading around 7-4 to equal or extend his own record of 10 winners in a single Festival, which he set 12 months ago, and could possibly get the dozen he needs to become the first trainer to ride 100 Festival winners.

It’s a stark contrast to reigning Great Britain champions Paul Nicholls, who has topped the managers’ table 11 times in total, including three of the last four campaigns.

Nicholls has drawn blanks in the last two Festivals, having ridden a total of 45 runners in the meeting without success since Politologue took his only meeting win of 2020 in the Champion Chase, and had just nine riders in total in 2022. , only one of which even made it to the frame.

Great Heart’Jac 2.30 Auditoria 3.00 Flann 3.30 Keplerian 4.00 Solomon Grey 4.30 Santon 

Catterick Bridge
Mortlach 2.45 Kavanaghs Cross 3.15 Sabbathical 3.45 Chase A Fortune 4.15 Betty Baloo 4.45 Golden Cosmos 

The Tron 5.30 Sugar Hill Babe 6.00 Six Strings 6.30 Mighty River (nb) 7.00 Local Bay 7.30 Galileo Glass 8.00 Elisheva (nap) 8.30 Billian 


Fast guide

Tips for Tuesdays from Greg Wood


Big Heart’Jac 2.30 Audience 3.00 custard 3.30 Keplerian 4.00 solomon gray 4.30 Saint

catterick bridge
mortlach 2.45 Kavanagh’s Cross 3.15 sabbatical 3.45 chase a fortune 4.15 betty baloo 4.45 golden cosmos

south well
the throne 5.30 sugar hill babe 6.00 Six strings 6.30 mighty river (nb) 7.00 local bay 7.30 galilean glass 8.00 Elisheva (nap) 8.30 billian

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Those numbers might look a bit more promising if Nicholls hadn’t felt compelled to remove Bravemansgame from the Brown Advisory Novice Chase last year when the ground got heavy, but he’s still a million miles from the days when horses like Kauto Star, Master Minded and Denman. they were preeminent.

Nicholls has at least one likely Festival favorite this time around, as Hermes Allen, unbeaten in three starts including the Grade One Challow Hurdle in December, is a worthy market leader for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. The King George Christmas winner Bravemansgame is also a serious contender to give Nicholls a fifth Gold Cup success, which would equal Tom Dreaper’s record and would also be the champion trainer’s first victory in the race since 2009.

“I don’t know how he’s going to get up that hill, nobody knows,” Nicholls said at an open morning in his yard on Monday, “but it was the same with Kauto Star. We didn’t know if he was going to go three and a quarter miles because he had been winning at Kempton , but he did.

Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill is the favorite for the Champion Hurdle. Photo: Steve Davies/

“He’s the best tenure chaser in England, I think he’s shown that, and now he has to go and run probably the biggest race of his life.”

Nicky Henderson, the only manager other than Nicholls to have won the title since Martin Pipe retired at the end of the 2004-05 season, is also the only British manager with more than one Festival favorite in current betting. Several of his main meeting hopes, including Constitution Hill, the favorite for the Champion Hurdle, will exercise at Kempton Park on Tuesday morning.

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But even if all the top contenders from Great Britain, including horses like Edwardstone, the second favorite for the Champion Chase, give their best, the bets suggest the home team will do well to reach double figures over the four days. Meanwhile, Mullins is likely to surpass the combined might of the British National Hunt races by himself.

It’s doubtful, to say the least, that race-goers at Cheltenham would be overly concerned with a winner’s nationality, so long as they bring their money. Britain hasn’t provided the majority of Festival winners since 2016 and the fans keep coming back.

However, the possible effect on the rest of the jumping season remains a concern. The big Saturday cards and Grade Ones that provide the narrative all winter long could start to look a bit pointless, to both owners and punters, if the winners are swept in the spring.

If, as some insist, it is “all part of a cycle” that will change in due course, then of course there is nothing to worry about. But there is little hard evidence that Ireland’s hegemony at Cheltenham has yet peaked, never mind that it has begun to wane, and the longer it continues, the more likely it is here to stay.

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